Labour mobility

Labour mobility and community participation in the extractive industries: case studies in the Canadian north (LACE)

Project Leader:  Gertrude Saxinger, Assistant Professor, Department for Cultural and Social Anthropology,  University of Vienna (AUT) // Austrian Polar Research Institute (APRI) // Adjunct Researcher Yukon College, Whitehorse (CAN) (

Core Team:
Susanna Gartler, PhD Candidate,  Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology,  University of Vienna
Chris Southcott, Professor at Lakehead University
Valoree Walker, Yukon Research Centre, Yukon College

Additional members:
Joella Hogan (Community Collaborator for book “Dän Húnaý – Our People’s Story”).
Liz Blair (Community Liaison researcher)
Tara Cater, PhD Candidate, Carleton University (Research: Work/Journey/Home: Exploring Resource Development-Related Migration in the Kivalliq Region, Nunavut)
Linn Sükar-Kogler, MA student, University of Vienna
Laura Somweber (transcriber)
Maxim Gartler (transcriber)

First Nation of Na Cho Nyak Dun 
Village of Mayo
Department of Economic Development, Yukon Government
Lakehead University
Yukon College
University of Vienna
Arctic FROST
J.V. Clark School, Mayo

Project Timeline: 2014-2017 Mobile Workers’ Guide available online

(click on image to access pdf file)
Gerti - Report PDF2-1



Cover LACE_Project results_final presentation 2020_comprProject Summary Presentation:  This presentation gives an overview of LACE activities between 2014 and 2020 and highlights results and products that have been created together with the First Nation of Nacho Nyäk Dun in Mayo/Yukon.

Other Yukon material is available on Youtube Gerti Saxinger’s YouTube Channel features short videos created during the LACE project. These include stories from former miners in Keno Hill, drumming of the Elder Frank Patterson and the film “Mining on First Nation Land”


Book “Dän Hùnày – Our People’s Story is based on an oral history study, conducted between 2015 and 2019, with Frank Patterson, Betty Lucas, Jimmy Johnny, Walter Peter, Rose Lemieux, Catherine Germaine, the late Helen Buyck, Lena Malcolm, Donnie (Donald) Germaine, Bella Peter, Simon Mervyn, Nancy Hager and Margaret Ball. All thirteen participants are First Nation of Nacho Nyäk Dun citizens and reside in the small town of Mayo, in the Yukon Territory.

Their accounts shed light on how Elders understand the influence of the extractive industry on their personal lives and their community in the present and the past. They provide information on approximately one hundred years of interaction with and involvement in the mining  industry. The time period covered in these accounts ranges from roughly 1915, the time of the relocation to the so-called ‘Old Village’ or ‘Dän Ku’, until life today.
Authors:  First Nation of Nacho Nyäk Dun Elders with Susanna Gartler, Joella Hogan, and Gertrude Saxinger
2019 published by First Nation of Nacho Nyäk Dun, ReSDA, Yukon College
ISBN 978-1-7750516-2-6.  E-ISBN 978-1-7750516-3-3

Northern Review Issue 47.   Gertrude Saxinger with First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun (2018) “Community Based Participatory Research as a Long-Term Process: Reflections on Becoming Partners in Understanding Social Dimensions of Mining in the Yukon (Gertrude Saxinger, First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun)”, The Northern Review, 47: 187–207. (open access)

Cover Some Lessons From Yukon Cultural Centres2Some Lessons from Yukon Cultural Centres and Heritage & Museum Organisations
Report for the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Heritage Department
by Susanna Gartler, PhD candidate, University of Vienna.  October 2018

2018 – NEW Memories of Mining: Youth and Elders Walk 2018

2018 – Updated Memories of Mining Poster


“Mining on First Nation Land – The First nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun in Mayo/Yukon Territory”

This film tells stories and portrays opinions of people from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun in Mayo/Yukon Territory in Canada related to mining on their Traditional Territory.

Produced by the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, 2017 A film by Gertrude Saxinger, Robert Gebauer, Jörg Oschmann, Susanna Gartler (University of Vienna, Austria, Austrian Polar Research Institute APRI)

This film is related to the research project “LACE – Labour Mobility and Community Participation in the Extractive Industries – Yukon”. The project (2014-2017) is funded by ReSDA (Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic), SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada), Yukon Government (Economy Department), University of Vienna (Austria).


August 2017 – book publication “The Mobile Workers Guide: Fly-in/Fly-out & Rotational Shift Work in Mining”  – Yukon Experiences. by Gertrude Saxinger and Susanna Gartler

details at

Cover The Mobile Workers Guide

An article on this work is available in the April 2017 issue of the Northern Public Affairs Magazine (Volume 5, Issue 1).  A guide for mobile mine workers by Gertrude Saxinger and Susanna Gartler. This article is available online at Northern Public Affairs.

A Yukon News article by Ashley Joannou, (April 13, 2017) Shovel-ready: Researchers to publish guide on work-life balance for prospective miners, was written about the project.

In March 2017 the LACE team was awarded additional ReSDA funding for the knowledge mobilization component of the project involving the publication of the “The Mobile Workers Guide – a ReSDA community outreach activity”. This fund is used for the design and production of print booklets to be distributed in communities and in mining companies.

Additional fieldwork with community discussions occurred in March 2017.  As part of this work video recordings were made from some of the previous interviews.  It is hoped that a video will be produced to share the research findings in addition to the creation of the Mobile Workers Guidebook.

On March 23, Gertie and Susa were interviewed by Leonard Linklater from CBC Yukon. You can listen to this interview “Mining Labour Relationships: big and small”  on the CBCYukon website at .

A presentation of the results of this research and the spin off project of Susanna Gartler was also given on March 23, as part of the Yukon College Brown Bag Lunch Sessions.  You can view the powerpoint slides from this presentation, Labour Mobility and Community Participation in Mining in the Yukon Territory – Findings from the “ReSDA-LACE” Projecthere.

CoverLACE Saxinger & Gartler March 2017BBLBBL LACE March 2017-2


As part of the ReSDA workshop held in Ottawa in October 26-28, 2016, Dr. Gertrude Saxinger provided an update of the research. You can view the powerpoint presentation or read the abstract provided that summarizes the current status of the project.

Project Update for Newsletter 2016

Summary Reports
There are two reports now available highlighting the results of this work over the last 2 years.

Cover LACE folder2Behind the Scenes in Mayo and Mining:  Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Elders’ Opinions on Mining and Community History
Stories collected between June 2015 and March 2016 by Gertie Saxinger and Susa Gartler.  Presentation given by Susa Gartler to community of Mayo in July 2016. (25 pages)



Cover LACE folderBehind the Scenes in Yukon Mining: Work, camp and family life in Yukon mining today.  Stories collected in 2014/15.  Full text with pictures from the presentation given by Gertie Saxinger in Mayo on October 4, 2015. (26 pages)  This is an updated report with pictures included.



Community Training and Education:
LACE – Youth Multi Media project “Me, My Life, My Community”  This will involve video training by Prof. Jesscia Graybill (Colgate College, Hamilton NY) for youth and adults during spring break (March 14-18, 2016) in Mayo, YT.  Support provided through the Na Cho Nyak Dun Youth Coordinators – Josephine Hager and Florence Pilon (email  You can find more details on the facebook page of the LACE project at 


LACE_SCOPe 29102015 Powerpoint slides CoverLACE_SCOPe 29102015Presentation description: Living off and on in camps near the mining sites and being away for a few weeks from family, friends and the community is the norm in mining today. Self-governing communities, like the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation, and mining companies usually agree on hiring and training local workforce. The Canadian government promotes mining as a tool for social and economic development in the north. But how do people cope with the required mobile lifestyle? Do they see mining as a sustainable professional career and do see the communities mining as a sustainable industry considering the regular boom and bust cycles? What perspectives are offered to women? These are only a few questions which are tackled in this SCOPe presentation. LACE is a research project in the framework of ReSDA (Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic) and is co-funded by the Department for Economic Development/Yukon Government. In a partnership between Yukon College, Lakehead University (ON) and the University of Vienna (AT) the anthropologists Gertrude Saxinger and Susanna Gartler have been collecting since 2014 over 80 interviews with workers of various professions, with administration representatives as well as with elders and youth. The study takes place in various mining regions in the Yukon and in particular in the village of Mayo. One of the LACE hands-on outcomes is a “Mobility Companion Guide” that informs, based on stories of experienced miners, the younger workers and those who are interested in this job market about benefits and how to cope with challenges occurring during a career in the mining industry.

  • Report:  “Behind the Scenes in Yukon Mining”: Community presentation of preliminary results on 5th of October in Mayo. See full text brochure.
  • September 2015 update: A special event was held on October 5, 2015 for community discussions of the project in Mayo.Mayo LACE community presentationOct 5 2015_color

Project Proposal Details

Extractive industry operations have always been connected to labour mobility. For over thirty years, long distance commute work (fly-in/fly-out: FIFO) has emerged as a key model of labour force provision for mining activities in remote regions. This is the case in sparsely populated areas of the circumpolar north such as those seen in many communities in northern regions of Canada. This fact brings about high influx of qualified workers and engineers from southern urban groups and challenges local participation in this labour market. Hence, mines are often located far away from communities in the north which requires the local populations to commute and stay on a rotational basis in camps for extended periods. There can be benefits and disadvantages to this type of arrangement and the impacts are not clearly understood. Mobility in the context of local participation in the extractive industries is an emerging field to examine in social sciences. Most extractive industry operations require a highly mobile workforce and this has impacts on people and communities in the North.

A crucial aim of this project is to have effective partnerships and community collaboration with meaningful involvement in the research and creating materials that can be effectively used by communities to support their needs.

Applied results are
1, Mobility Companion Guide (MGC)– a low-threshold booklet for communication of research results and the stories people tell about their experience. It is means for talking about challenges to be observed as well as of best practices and benefits from indigenous engagement for current and potential employees such as young and mid-age people of communities, the industry, government bodies, social workers and the community in general.
2, Mobile Youth Multi-Media (MYMM) is a community-youth based multi-media product such as a film or TV documentary for community outreach and youth engagement into research. A local community member should be trained to take care of this initiative in order to make multi-media work by the youth sustainable beyond the project. Young people will be trained in interview making, film making, writing internet blogs and communication in general. This part will start in the second year after approval for additional funding.

Methodologies are semi-structured interviews and long-term stays in the places for anthropological field research in the proposed communities. Furthermore, intense collaboration with the native communities is achieved through involvement of a community researcher as well as young people who are interview partners and take part in multi-media activities. Community workshops provide reflection of results and push research questions further.

All members of the team will employ same methodology for data generation and analysis in terms of qualitative social research and ethnography. This involves:

1. semi-narrative and narrative interviews with community members
2. expert interviews with stakeholders form community organization, industry, administrative bodies, chambers, labour union, etc.
3. long-term participant observation in communities as well as of communication processes between stakeholders and the community
4. assessment of mobility patterns and modes of transport to and from site as well as to local centers such as Whitehorse
5. collaboration with a local community researcher in each site
6. These case studies will be compared with a similar project in the Russian Irkutsk region which is confronted with a new boom in the extractive industry sector in order to understand global differences and similarities.


This project is supported by ReSDA and Department of Economic Development, Yukon Government and the University of Vienna

Follow the project (Website of the Austrian Polar Research Institute APRI, research group Saxinger)

For more information contact:
Gertrude Saxinger
Department for Cultural and Social Anthropology
University of Vienna
E-mail: Gertrude Saxinger <>